There is a groundbreaking new asset available to operators of mobile produce markets. The Veggie Van Toolkit was developed by researchers at the University at Buffalo, and funded by the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation in Massachusetts. The Toolkit is the result of the Veggie Van Study, funded in part by a five-year, $3.1 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (learn more).
The Study (and the resulting Toolkit) was developed to address food access and food security, while combatting growing food deserts in the US. A food desert is caused when a community is deprived of the wholesome foods that it requires to thrive. Low income and underserved communities must often rely on corner stores to feed their families, resulting in the consumption of overly processed foods.
The Toolkit was officially launched in March during the second annual Mobile Market Summit convened by UB – the Summit was held virtually due to COVID-19 (see model).
By providing a road map for more veggie trucks to get out on the road (quite literally), while ensuring that the ones out there are successful, the Toolkit is an invaluable resource.
“We’re letting mobile market operators know that they don’t need to reinvent the wheel. This toolkit compiles a lot of information and resources from other markets,” said Lucia Leone, PhD, assistant professor of community health and health behavior in UB’s School of Public Health and Health Professions, and primary investigator on the Veggie Van Study.
“It’s important to use a strategy that’s evidence based. While there are lots of programs out there looking to address diet and food access disparities, our mobile market model has been tested by research and shown to have an impact on what people are eating,” Leone said.
“Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation is supporting the toolkit because we believe in the power of mobile markets to increase access to fresh, healthy, mostly local food for families and communities. The toolkit is an amazing asset to help get more of these vehicles on the road and into communities,” said Michael Devlin, the foundation’s director of grants and initiatives.
Highlights of the Veggie Van model include: